This season, the Carolina Hurricanes will open with more changes than in any other past season in franchise history. And, after a decade-long drought from the NHL Playoffs, Caniacs are eager to learn how these changes will affect the team’s future. We sat down with the Canes’ new owner, Tom Dundon, and he walked us through what’s new and gave us a good idea of when Sir Walter Raleigh can, once again, expect to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
What is the biggest change that Hurricanes fans will notice?
The culture. Unfortunately when you don’t have success, people start to forget how good they are and why they play. [But] if you have good players, good coaching and good preparation, then you start to expect different results. If everybody believes they’re going to win, you have a better chance. And I’m starting to feel like that’s the case now.
Outside of winning more games, how are you going to get fans back in the seats?
I hate to not answer your question, but there is no plan other than winning. That is the only plan. Along with winning, making sure that it’s easy to get in and out of the arena and the food, the service and the entertainment are good. We [also] want to improve accessibility to the players. These players are one of the best things about this organization. If the fans can build a bond with the players, at the same time that the players are successful, then it’s easy to want to participate.
Do you have plans for making the players more accessible?
One, we’re redoing the locker rooms and we’re going to try to let fans get access to where the players are. [Also,] our foundation’s done a great job for a long time getting out in the community and we [can] add on top of that, whether [the players are] supporting a youth hockey team or showing up at someone’s event.
Let’s go through some changes one-by-one. How are they going to affect the organization? Let’s start with Don Waddell as General Manager.
Don has a lot of experience, a lot of relationships in the league. He was on the business side but he didn’t participate on the hockey side before I got here. On the hockey side, we’re trying to institute something where everybody, from our scouts, our assistant coaches and anyone in management, gets to participate in the conversation. Don is a good facilitator; he wants everyone’s input, and we’re able to make sure we’re able to get the benefit of everyone’s opinion.
Rod Brind’Amour as coach:
I would’ve come in with a bias against having an ex-player and someone who’s been coaching through some of the tougher years. My instinct would not have been that he would be a person that you would consider to be the head coach. The way I look at Rod is… he would be successful no matter what he tried. To me, that’s the most important characteristic: someone who doesn’t know how to fail. He listens. He communicates. He’s empathetic, but he’s a leader. He out-works everybody. That’s probably the luckiest thing about the organization right now, is that he was here and wanted to do that job. I’ve been really impressed.
On the 2nd overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov:
We had a consensus that he would be the best offensive player in the draft, not just with us, but around the league. We hoped that along with that talent, he had the character and the work ethic that fit into what we wanted to do. We quickly found out that he has all the off-ice characteristics that we are now demanding. [Svechnikov is] a really talented player who also plays physically, scores goals, works hard and is easy to be around so we couldn’t be happier.
How will goalie, Petr Mrazek, fit in?
Goaltending seems to be something that runs in cycles. The best goalies will tend to be average every four years. What we hope is that our guys [Mrazek and Darling] got through their tough times and now can return to what they’ve been in the past. They’re young, and they’ve done it before. We don’t have to guess about what they are at their best. At their best they’re both really good.
Last, what do you hope to bring?
I’ve never doubted for a second that I’d figure out a way, in whatever the situation, to be successful. It’s not a question of if, it’s just when. I have to continue to give the resources so everyone has everything they need; so that everybody knows, when the game starts, we’re prepared and we have an expectation that is winning. I read recently, after we made our trade, that we must not be trying to win now, which is just ridiculous. We have every expectation of starting to win right now.
So do you have a goal in mind for when the Stanley Cup can come home?
We’re competitive right now, we should expect to win now. There’s nothing else we need asset-wise to compete with anybody in the league. Now we just have to perform.